Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Why Do Bigots Smell?"

"So that blind people can hate them too."

A very lame joke. It was spontaneous -- the best I could do under the circumstances. I was standing in Sully's (no, not that Sully) BC dorm room twenty-seven years ago. Sully had just moved in. Upon learning throwing furniture out the window was punishable by expulsion, we were considering bringing furniture outside and throwing it back in through the window. You know, just to fuck with the RA.

Sully stepped outside to consider logistics. I cracked a brew with our friends Jay and Chuck. Sully had just introduced his room mate, "G", who was also present. Just four white guys hanging out. Drinking.

About a minute in, "G" tells what is colloquially known as a "nigger joke." (As if any "humor" characterized by such an ugly, hateful word could be a joke). Jay, Chuck and I ignored him. "G" told another one. Now I was officially fucking pissed. But I said nothing. Chuck was a wimp, Jay was confrontation averse and I really didn't want to slug it out with Sully's new room mate his first weekend at school. Did I mention that "G" had twenty pounds on me?

"G" told his third and final "joke."

What came next:

Me: "I have a joke for you."
"G": "Great!"
Me: "Why do bigots smell?"
"G": "Why?"
Me: ""So that blind people can hate them too."
Silence. Jay and Chuck immediately flinched. Two or three beats later it dawned on "G" that I was fucking with him, attacking him for his racism. What ensued was predictable -- "I'm gonna kill you!" vs. "Give me your best shot, cracker!", etc. Chuck and Jay kept us from mixing it up. "G" split presumably to find a more sympathetic audience. Every subsequent visit to Sully, "G" left before I arrived.

Here's what I learned from this incident:
  1. People often choose to ignore racism in their friends, family, co-workers, etc.
  2. If you ignore bigotry, it won't go away.
  3. Ignoring bigotry is read as tacit approval thus encouraging more of the same.
  4. Confronting racism is a tricky, sometimes dangerous, business.
  5. Bigots are bullies. Stand up to them and they usually back off.
  6. Less confrontational techniques might prevent me getting my head kicked in.
Enough for now. I'll pick this up again tomorrow.